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Drug tycoon, accomplices charged

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Oknha Tan Senghak (C) was arrested following a raid by police in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Oknha Tan Senghak (C) was arrested following a raid by police in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday winnowed its list of defendants to five in a major drug-trafficking case that has as its alleged ringleader Tan Senghak, an oknha and former adviser to Senate president Chea Sim.

Senghak and a host of his guests, including family members, were arrested last week in a raid on his Phnom Penh villa in Sen Sok district, where police allege they interrupted a meth-smoking party.  

Along with the narcotics, police seized $2,500 in cash, bullets, pipes, jewellery, two passports, mobile phones and nine motorbikes, among other possessions of Senghak, whom authorities believe led a kind of double life as a drug dealer.

After several days of questioning, all but Senghak and four others were deemed to be uninvolved with the case and released. His wife and daughter were also freed.

Three of the defendants, including Senghak, were charged with drug trafficking and two others booked as accomplices.

All of them are in Prey Sar prison awaiting trial.

The drug bust was not the first time Senghak has run into trouble with the law, according to Yim Leang, the chief of Sim's bodyguard unit.

Senghak was fired in 2005 as an adviser to Sim after he was jailed for an audacious series of crimes that included the attempted murder of a police officer in Phnom Penh and producing fake documents in order to illegally grab land.

Deputy municipal prosecutor Chea Met said yesterday he could not determine the possible jail terms the suspects faced because the inquiry was still under way.

“We are waiting for the expert officials to clarify the actual percentage of addictive substance in the drugs,” he said.

Lieutenant-General Khieu Saman, the head of anti-drug trafficking, said Senghak’s wife and daughter had never been involved in drug crimes and, according to villagers, Senghak lived in disharmony with them since he was last released from prison.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Sarom at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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